DURANT — Class 8A, District 7 made another case for toughest district in the county Tuesday as fifth-seeded Wharton shocked second-seeded Bloomingdale 3-2 in the first district semifinal.
Then sixth-seeded Alonso took defending state champion Durant the distance in a hard-fought, 1-0 Cougars victory. The Wildcats and Cougars will play in the district final Thursday.
In the early game it was starting pitchers Mak Dooley and Lace Smith running the show. The Bulls jumped on Dooley early, getting two runs in the first inning off a bunt squeeze and hit by Darby Bernaldo. The Wildcats got a run back in the top of the second on an RBI double by Nicole Keesee, but went on a three-inning drought before the top of the sixth.
Keesee led off with a single then an error and a bloop single from Sam Hathcoat loaded the bases. Nicole Stannard smacked a pitch to right and scored Keesee, but Hathcoat got caught between second and third when the Wildcats held Jordan Brett at third.
“I just took off (toward home) because I knew she (Hathcoat) was out if I stayed,” Brett said.
Brett drew a throw home that gave Hathcoat enough time to get back to second. Then Brett turned heel and dove back under the tag at third. Dooley came up next and sacrificed Brett home for the go-ahead run.
In the second game, Cougars starter Paige Davis kept the Ravens off the board. The Cougars got 11 hits but stranded 10 and could not get that elusive run until Kelli Tidwell came up in the fifth inning. Tidwell, who is postponing surgery on her knee, fouled a ball into it and it brought her to the ground in pain.
“That’s one of those moments where you wonder if you made the right call as a coach,” Cougars coach Matt Carter said. “She is a tough kid, and she was due for a hit.”
Tidwell got up and singled to left for the winning RBI.
“I was just trying to get there (first base), I just knew I had to make it to first base and be safe,” Tidwell said.
6A-11: Sweet revenge for Strawberry Crest, Sickles
TAMPA —The evening featured a near-perfect game and a triple play. Strawberry Crest and Sickles got something else out of the Class 6A, District 11 semifinals Tuesday — payback.
The top-seeded Chargers and No. 3 Gryphons shut out the teams that knocked them out of the 2012 playoffs.
Junior Sammy Tyler came within one out of a perfect game and struck out 13 to lead Strawberry Crest to a 3-0 victory over Leto.
Sickles got a big effort from senior Megin Eskew, who tossed a four-hitter and went 3-for-3 with two runs scored in a 4-0 win against Jefferson.
Strawberry Crest coach Mindy Miltner said last year’s loss to Leto has fueled her 22-2 team. “We’ve been talking about it all year,” she said.
“The girls had confidence coming into this game.”
Tyler, who transferred from Armwood last season during the school year and was ineligible to play in the loss to Leto, was dominant.
She retired the first 20 Falcons before Becca Harkins bounced a clean single to leftfield. It was the only hit allowed by Tyler (13-1), who has been dealing with a pulled quad to her left leg the past two weeks. “It’s getting better,” she said.
Tyler threw 72 of 101 pitches for strikes and allowed only one ball out of the infield. “My cutter and screw(ball) were working,” Tyler said. Strawberry Crest took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Trystan Reibsome scored on a two-out error. The Chargers added two in the sixth on back-to-back triples by Cacey Simmons and Megan Reed, and a sacrifice fly by Aly Masessa.
Sickles (17-9) used a pair of defensive gems to escape trouble in the first two innings. A double play in the first and a triple play in the second kept the game scoreless until the fourth, when Christina Linton scored on a Giselle Anderson sacrifice fly, and Brianna
Schwecke followed with a two-run double. Eskew keyed the rally with the second of her two singles. She tripled in the sixth and scored the Chargers’ final run on an Ashley Weisman sacrifice fly.
“(The first two innings) set the tone and kept us pumped up for the rest of the game,” said Eskew, who threw only 80 pitches, 50 for strikes. “When I have defense to back me up, that’s all that matters.”
Eskew didn’t allow a hit after the fourth inning.
7A-8: East Bay earns matchup with Plant City
GIBSONTON — After barely missing on a majestic game-winning play Tuesday, East Bay happily settled for mundane.
Record-setting sophomore Madison Culver’s bid for a tiebreaking two-run homer went a few feet foul. But shortly after Culver watched a wild pitch go to the backstop, Kiara Burrows streamed in with the go-ahead run and the Indians had a 4-3 District 7A-8 semifinal victory against Riverview.
“We won, how can I not be happy with that?” said Culver, who went hitless in the game after setting the school mark at .525 during the regular season.
East Bay’s defeat of the second-seeded Sharks means a district title meeting with No. 1 seed Plant City, which earlier Tuesday strolled past Brandon (4-16) 10-0 in five innings.
Burrows led off the top of the seventh with a walk, the only one issued by Riverview starter Kaitlyn McMillan. After Burrows stole second she was bunted over by Taylor Baker, who also struck out seven in the complete-game victory.
Baker had six of her strikeouts through three innings before Riverview (12-9) took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on Jordan Phillips’ two-run double. That started a series of momentum swings, with East Bay going up 3-2 in the top of the sixth on Jessica Powser’s pinch-hit single, answered by a Riverview tying run in the bottom half.
“We knew it was going to be tough, but it feels great to beat them,” said Burrows, who had two hits, a walk, sacrifice bunt and topped the night with two tough catches in the bottom of the seventh.
Kayla Newsome was 2-for-2 with a walk and two runs for the Sharks, while Ayana Hempstead drove in East Bay’s first two runs out of the No. 8 spot.
And it all unfolded in front of the unofficial East Bay good luck charm. Having probably done enough for the program, pitching the Indians to the 2010 state title, current UT standout Kayla Cox was on hand.
“Monday was the first time I’ve come to see them play this year and I came back tonight,” she said. “I’ll be here Thursday, and I’m bringing my championship ring.”
Based on its district results Plant City won’t be fazed. The Raiders went 10-0 in 7A-8 play, outscoring opponents 121-6, with Tuesday’s easy semifinal more of the same.
The Raiders edged to the mercy-rule finish with four runs in the fourth to make it 9-0. Later Emily Register’s bunt single brought home Savana Garrison to end it.
Noelle Dietrich allowed only a single to Ashley White in the third inning. Kristen Wyckoff went 3-for-4 with Dietrich and Register adding two hits apiece.
Brandon second baseman Krystin Gross turned two inning-ending double plays, one unassisted on a dive to the bag. Gross also made a tough play to foil Wyckoff’s attempt at a fourth hit.
“It would be more beneficial if we’d had more close games in district, sure, just because you get better that way,” said Raiders coach Amanda Sawyer. “But our games with Riverview and East Bay were all good, and it’ll be a good one on Thursday.”
4A-9: At Academy of the Holy Names, the No. 2-seeded Jaguars (16-3) capped a lopsided day with a six-inning, 10-0 romp of Berkeley Prep, setting up Thursday’s 7 p.m. title game against top-seeded Tampa Catholic. The Crusaders (15-10) amassed 10 runs off seven hits and four errors in the first inning of a three-inning, 15-0 rout of Sarasota Booker. TC senior Cassie Pesce allowed one hit, striking out seven.
3A-8: At Seffner Christian, the No. 2-seeded Crusaders (13-5) collected eight fifth-inning runs en route to a 10-5 triumph against No. 3 Bishop McLaughlin. SCA faces top-seeded Carrollwood Day in Thursday’s 5 p.m. final, where the Patriots will seek their first district title. CDS (10-5) got a three-hitter from Amanda Rose and a huge offensive effort from sophomore Samantha Fest (two hits, two RBI, three runs) in a 9-0 semifinal romp of Tampa Prep.
2A-9: At Canterbury, No. 2-seeded Cambridge Christian tallied 15 hits and watched freshman ace Alea White toss a four-hitter in a 12-2 triumph against Lakeside Christian. The Lancers face top-seeded Canterbury in Thursday’s 6 p.m. final. Upstaging White in the circle Tuesday was Canterbury ace Kama Woodall, who celebrated her 14th birthday with a five-inning perfect game in a 15-0 semifinal romp of Bayshore Christian.
5A-11: At Lennard, the top-seeded Longhorns (11-9) moved a step closer to the 7-year-old program’s first district title with a 16-1 semifinal romp of Spoto.
Staff writer Joey Knight and correspondents Don Jensen and Darek Sharp contributed to this report.
Photo: Strawberry Crest’s Megan Reed, left, celebrates stealing home during the sixth inning with Jordan Bowers in a 3-0 win over Leto.